Summit football preview – Hilltoppers manage to produce despite obstacles

Summit won North 2, Group 3 for the fifth time last year.
The Hilltoppers have won a Union County-best 83 games this decade and have had a winning season every year since 2009.

SUMMIT – The Hilltoppers have produced 10 consecutive winning seasons beginning in 2009 and this decade have won the most games of any Union County school with 83.
Last year Summit won its third state championship in the decade – all three coming in North 2, Group 3.
Some years there are an abundant of returning starters and some there are not.
Regardless, the Hilltoppers have managed to find a way to challenge for division and playoff supremacy no matter what the circumstances are.
This year’s offense has one returning starter – senior center Ronnie Faris.
“This rivals 2013 when after the 2012 team won its state championship we graduated just about everybody,” seventh-year head coach Kevin Kostibos said.
Summit pushed aside that lack of experience in 2013 to repeat as North 2, Group 3 state champs.
“Sometimes you can overcome that,” Kostibos said.
The Hilltoppers will work hard to get past that scenario once again this fall.
Taking over at quarterback is senior Sam Roberts, who was the backup to Skyler Schluter a year ago.
“He’s been terrific leading our offense so far,” Kostibos said. “We’re asking him to be a decision-maker now. He takes command of the huddle.
“He also has a good arm and reads defenses well.”
Losing senior running back Max Jackson and his school-record 1,796 yards rushing from last season – Jackson is now playing at Marist College – will no doubt be tough to replace.
“We’ve taken the mantra that you can’t replace certain people,” Kostibos said. “It’s now time for these players to create their own identity.
“You are your own story. You do you. It’s about going back to the basics like running the football, relying on pass-action and being incredibly physical up front.”
Junior inside linebacker Austin Groce is among the leaders on defense, one of five returning starters on that unit.
“Very physical and he’s a West Point commit,” Kostibos said.
Graduated running back Jackson Tyler is now at West Point.
“Austin has that type of mentality,” Kostibos said. “He is the quarterback of our defense. He provides so much more by understanding what’s going on.”
Ollie Paasonen is a lineman capable of breaking through the line and greeting an opposing running back with an imposing tackle.
“He had a great off-season, a strong kid who can move well for a big man,” Kostibos said. “Off the edge he’s as good as anyone we’ve had.”
Kostibos described fellow seniors Joe Lusardi and Matty Goldblatt – returning starters in the secondary – as athletes who will be difficult to beat.
“Our defense will be fine,” Kostibos said. “It’s a matter of developing team chemistry.”
Summit has gone 83-17 this decade, including three state championships and back-to-back 12-0 seasons in 2012 and 2013. After winning the Mid-State’s Raritan Division championship last year, the Hilltoppers – along with Warren Hills – were moved over into the Group 3 Mountain Division. Cranford – now Group 4 – moved into the Raritan.
Summit will host Cranford at Tatlock Field on the final week of the regular season, Nov 2. Cranford was the only team to defeat Summit in the regular season last year.
“Every coach tries to turn their program into a machine,” Kostibos said. “Can we still play Hilltopper football no what experience we have?”

T Harry Grange, senior, (6-3, 215)
T Justin Luckshire, senior, (6-1, 205)
T David Fuentes, senior, (5-9, 210)
C Ronnie Faris, senior, (5-10, 200)
G Charlie Wattick, junior, (5-11, 220)
G MJ Stewartson, junior, (5-10, 195)
G Matt Bronikowski, senior, (5-11, 175)
G Ryan Tomlin, junior, (5-11, 230)
TE John Fischetti, senior, (6-3, 195)
TE Andre Campbell, senior, (6-2, 225)
WR Pat White, senior, (6-3, 190)
WR Ethan Engmann, junior, (5-10, 155)
WR Jack Gange, senior, (6-0, 150)
QB Sam Roberts, senior, (6-1, 180)
FB Ollie Paasonen, senior, (6-4, 225)
FB Evan Duetsch, senior, (5-11, 180)
B Joe Lusardi, senior, (5-11, 185)
B Austin Groce, junior, (6-2, 210)
B Jerson Martinez, junior, (5-9, 165)
TB Matty Goldblatt, senior, (6-1, 175)
TB Eli Bergner, junior, (5-7, 155)
PK Brock Froschauer, junior, (5-10, 170)
Returning starters (1): Faris.

T Ryan Tomlin, junior, (5-11, 230)
T Justin Jiminez, junior, (510, 275)
T Justin Luckshire, senior, (6-1, 205)
T Charlie Wattick, junior, (5-11, 220)
E Ollie Paasonen, senior, (6-4, 225)
E Andre Campbell, senior, (6-2, 225)
E Harry Grange, senior, (6-3, 215)
ILB Austin Groce, junior, (6-2, 210)
ILB Matt Bronikowski, senior, (5-11, 175)
OLB John Fischetti, senior, (6-3, 195)
OLB Evan Duetsch, senior, (5-11, 180)
OLB Timmy Sajer, junior, (5-9, 165)
CB Joe Lusardi, senior, (5-11, 185)
FS Matty Goldblatt, senior, (6-1, 175)
CB EJ Sorenson, senior, (5-6, 145)
P Brock Froschauer, junior, (5-10, 170)
Returning starters (5): Paasonen, Groce,
Fischetti, Lusardi, Goldblatt.

Sept. 14 at Roselle, 2 p.m.
Sept. 20 at North Plainfield, 7 p.m.
Sept. 28 Rahway, 1 p.m.
Oct. 5 Somerville, 2 p.m.
Oct. 12 at Gov. Livingston, 1 p.m.
Oct. 18 at Warren Hills, 7 p.m.
Oct. 25 Voorhees, 7 p.m.
Nov. 2 Cranford, 2:30 p.m.,
Head coach: Kevin Kostibos,
seventh season

2018 HILLTOPPERS (10-2)
(A) Summit 42, Montgomery 0
(H) Summit 45, Warren Hills 8
(H) Summit 22, North Hunterdon 9
(A) Summit 64, Scotch Plains 25
(H) Summit 36, Colonia 6
(A) Cranford 25, Summit 12
(H) Summit 46, St. Joe’s, Metuchen 20
(A) Summit 44, Immaculata 0
(H) Summit 57, Voorhees 39
(H) Summit 51, Montville 14
(H) Summit 36, Rahway 14
(N) Ramapo 42, Summit 22
at MetLife Stadium
Head coach: Kevin Kostibos,
Sixth season
Section: North, Group 3
Conference: Mid-State 36
Division: Raritan, 5-0, champs
Record: 10-2
Home: 7-0
Away: 3-1
Neutral: 0-1
Points for: 477
Points against: 192
Shutouts: 2
Overtime: 0

Head Coach: Kevin Kostibos, since 2013.
A 1999 Hanover Park graduate.
Seventh season: 51-15 (.773)
Conference: Mid-State 37
Division: Mountain
Section: North, Group 3
Summit’s last sectional title: 2018
2018: (10-2 and 5-0, Raritan Division champions)
Tatlock Field: Turf.
Kostibos has now guided Summit to North 2, Group 3
state championships in 2013 and 2018. Summit was
situated in North 2, Group 4 for the first time four years ago
and qualified in the section in both 2015 and 2016.
The 2016 squad reached the semifinals.
Kostibos was previously an assistant coach at Summit under
the coach he played for in high school at Hanover Park, John Liberato.
Liberato came back to coaching the varsity at Summit two years ago,
with this being his third year on staff as an assistant. Liberato was the
freshman coach at Summit in 2013 and then served as an assistant coach
at Kean University in 2014, 2015 and 2016.